This visualization articulates a paradoxical narrative of existence of toxicity and purity at the same place. On one hand, here, the prescribed sacredness and the power of purification of Godavari is associated with the Hindu mythology of ‘Churning of Ocean.’ It is illustrated by the murals along the river, as visible in the image. The panels begin with a tussle between the gods and demons over various elements, like ambrosia and poison, produced during the churning. It is believed that the struggle over ambrosia spilled its droplets over four locations, including Godavari in Nashik making the riverscape one of the significant Hindu pilgrimage site. Owing to this association, thousands of pilgrims converge along the river everyday to purify themselves.
Whereas on the other hand, the riverscape is lined with pipes of sewage systems. In the summer of 2016, the Godavari river flowing through the city of Nashik turned into a trickle as it ran dry after 139 years due to severe water scarcity. Exposing all the sewage leakages, during this period, the river was reduced to carrier of sewage as there was only wastewater flowing through its course. For people living in the informal and temporary settlements along the Godavari, as the river was their only source of water amidst water scarcity, they were forced to ignore the toxic realities of the river and to continue using its water to meet their daily needs.
These practices make the riverscape pure as well as toxic at the same place and time. Existence of such contradictions can be linked with the contestations between tangible and intangible ontologies of the river.
This visualization is part of the Visualizing Toxic Places collection. It is also part of the Sacred Toxic: Narratives of Visible and Invisible Toxicities of Godavari River photo essay.
Ethnographic Fieldwork in Nashik by Shilpa Dahake